Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Truly Appalling Lawsuit Against Duke University

Most everyone is aware of the Duke lacrosse team scandal, the debacle about alleged rape by Duke lacrosse team students that led to the resignation of prosecutor Nifong for prosecutorial misconduct, exoneration of the accused, an expose of the radical agendas of a subset of Duke's faculty, and a great deal of national publicity, or, I should say, notoriety.

Now, in Dec. 2007 several of the team members have filed a civil suit. The lawsuit filing documents are downloadable from these links (PDF files):

Part 1 (100 kb PDF)
Part 2 (1.3 Mb PDF)

I recommend downloading and perusing these in their entirely. Stunning - and frightening.

Using Adobe Acrobat, a search in them upon the term "medical" is of great concern. Named in the suit as defendants are Duke University Health Systems, a private diagnostic clinic contracted to Duke, a number of physicians and RN's, and unversity officials overseeing medical affairs.

What caught my attention were:

  • A massive conspiracy to deprive three young men of their rights under the U.S. Constitution, of Stalin-police state proportions
  • Sections on production of falsified medical records to support fabrications regarding sexual assault examinations
  • The naming of a number of Duke medical center and medical center-associated officials including the Chancellor for Health Affairs (a physician Victor Dzau MD) as direct participants by commission and/or omission (e.g., indifference to, and failure to act against obvious impropriety)
  • The collusion or tepid reactions of the most senior Duke officials right up to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Overall, this story would make for the most stunning of movies of Serpico proportions - and probably will be, and should be.

If the allegations are even partially true, we have the most candid expose of the severe state of moral decay that afflicts our educational system (a system that produces our leaders of other organizations), our healthcare system, our justice system, and our culture.

More on the Duke situation can be found at this extensive, well-written fellow blogspot site, put together by one non-Duke professor named KC Johnson, Durham-in-Wonderland.

How I became aware of this is a story unto itself.

I noted the following passage in a polemical November 2007 article most ironically entitled Academic Freedom: The 'Danger' of Critical Thinking", International Studies Perspectives 8 (4), 396–400, doi:10.1111/j.1528-3585.2007.00306.x by Duke Professor of Asian and African Languages and Literature Miriam Cooke (fulltext here):

In this time of war that allows some people to lie and cheat, it is taboo for others to think critically ... It is dangerous even "to speculate about the relation between this war (in Iraq) and the geopolitical interests of Israel." These are the words of Paul Gilroy, who, at the time of speaking, was chair of African-American studies at Yale. Enraged, his colleague Scott Siluerstein compared him with Hitler and claimed that his words "illustrated the moral psychosis and perhaps psychological sadism that appears to have infected leftist academia." (Younge 2006).

This discovery led me to a literature search that led me to the Duke lawsuit documents. Cooke is profiled here.

Cooke actually misquotes a misquote by writer Gary Younge in the British newspaper The Guardian in an article "Silence in Class", April 4, 2006. In turn, Younge had misquoted an editorial authored by me that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 17, 2003 (see this link for my original.)

To be more precise, I should say that Younge used the "art of political war" rhetorical ploy utilized to discredit anyone who even writes about history's worst figures and any favored academic/politican/etc. in the same essay. As an act of obfuscation and diversion in the interests of ideological/political warfare, the ploy is to say the author is comparing the subject to history's worst figures, or even equating them. Cooke then parroted Younge's rhetoric.

Why the diversion and obfuscation? To obscure that I was actually pointing out that dangerous ideas -- especially crackpot conspiratorial ideas held by numerous very notorious historical figures dating back centuries -- have dangerous consequences. I was also commenting on the proven bigotry, cruelty, crassness, and insensitivity of statements made by deGenova, Baraka, Gilroy and others towards Israel, Holocaust victims and their families. (If you want a flavor of what many radical academics write, say, or think of as brilliant work, see here and here as examples.)

This ploy and lexical, semantic, contextual, and other games often seem the limit of the capability for debate of far too many of today's academics and mainstream media writers. (Where they learn these tactics, I do not know, but perhaps there is some sort of training fellowship.)

Duke Prof. Cooke didn't bother to contact me, a fellow academic, nor apparently do a simple google search or utilize the considerable informatics resources of her own university's library to find my original Wall St. Journal letter and my online response to Younge, on AOL at the time and now here. (Another possibility is that she did find them and ignored them, of course.) Cooke simply parroted Younge plus for literary effect invented my being "enraged" at my "colleague" (in fact, I rolled my eyes at Gilroy's statements, as one does towards the drivel coming from the Ivy League these days, and a simple fact check would have shown that I was not Gilroy's "colleague" and that our times at Yale did not intersect).

In summary, academic research for this tenured professor and Oxford graduate consists of parroting secondary sources such as The Guardian as fact, inventing events and relationships that did not exist, and not bothering to check primary sources either directly or indirectly, a fundamental tenet of reputable academic research. Or perhaps Cooke chose to ignore primary sources, a rather shoddy and irreputable approach to scholarly research. To Cooke, "critical thinking" apparently means "semantic legerdemain and reckless criticism of everything she does not agree with."

I subscribe to a different definition, consistent with the teachings of my early mentor Victor P Satinsky, inventor of the Satinsky clamp and many other cardiothoracic surgery tools and techniques used to this day. Dr. Satinsky ran ran rigorous programs emphasizing critical thinking, responsibility, and clear, direct language in the interests of patient care:

Critical thinking means correct thinking in the pursuit of relevant and reliable knowledge about the world. Another way to describe it is reasonable, reflective, responsible, and skillful thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do. A person who thinks critically can ask appropriate questions, gather relevant information, efficiently and creatively sort through this information, reason logically from this information, and come to reliable and trustworthy conclusions about the world that enable one to live and act successfully in it.

(It's not a simple matter of incompetence. "Quackademics" who do not believe in reason and logic - the tools of the "oppressors" - are largely incapable of true critical thinking. Hysterical rants, semantic trickery, obfuscation they can do. Distortions and mistruths are no problem for them, since in their minds the means justifies the ideological ends. Put plainly, they are deceptive liars. But they are not incompetent. In the Art of Political War, they are actually quite competent. It does, however, scare the daylights out of such academics when people who do think rationally have "got their number" on that particular skill. Thanks to advances in information and communication technologies, an increasing number of ordinary people are "getting their number." Of that they are truly terrified. But I digress.)

Not surprisingly, I discovered that Cooke was a member of the "Group of 88", a group of Duke professors who apparently gave the accused students a behind-closed-doors fair trial (of course, defendants' presence not required), then lined them up and had them figuratively shot with a well-publicized statement implying their guilt. From the Inside Higher Ed article linked above:

... The 88 signatories affirmed that they were “listening” to a select group of students troubled by sexism and racism at Duke. Yet 8 of the 11 quotes supplied from students to whom these professors had been talking, 8 contained no attribution — of any sort, even to the extent of claiming to come from anonymous Duke students. Nonetheless, according to the faculty members, “The disaster didn’t begin on March 13th and won’t end with what the police say or the court decides.” It’s hard to imagine that college professors could openly dismiss how the ultimate legal judgment would shape this case’s legacy. Such sentiments perhaps explain why no member of the Duke Law School faculty signed the letter.

I contacted Cooke, pointing out her errors and providing rather sarcastic commentary on how I was part of the Great Walt and Mearsheimer Cabal against academic freedom (a metaphor for another rather tenuous and tendentious piece of 'research' from yet another Ivy, Harvard). I have not received any reply. This is typical of academic tyrants, who are cowards when confronted outside of their power base. I contacted by email and phone the office of Duke President Richard H. Brodhead inquiring if Brodhead believed citing secondary sources constituted good research practice. He also has not replied.

Finally, I wonder if current Duke president Brodhead, who was an official at Yale until 2004 and implicated in this Duke lawsuit for sins of omission and commission, was involved in events covered in the previous post about an ongoing Federal investigation of Yale research grant accounting ("Lux et Veritas, or Trust But Verify? Yale discovers eDiscovery"). An interesting Powerpoint presentation on that matter is here (PPS file).

I think a comment made on the Duke-in-Wonderland site is particularly apropos:

"Another development on the local Duke scene is the “raised consciousness” of sensible alumni and institutional friends ... Any intelligent Duke alumnus of whatever age should now realize that he or she probably has more sensible and constructive ideas that many prominent Duke faculty."

This Duke disgrace is perhaps an epitaph for today's tenured, $100,000+ annually, pot-smoking, "oppressed" 1960's misfit-dominated academia.

-- SS

Addendum: there is much wisdom in this posting by KC Johnson regarding intellectual decay in academia. Many of the points raised also apply to the matters discussed on this blog. That academia sets the tone through its influence on students suggests that one path to "healthcare renewal" is via "academic renewal."


Nick said...

Dr. Silverstein - I like reading your articles. Seriously, you probably know best of all, that the academic cabal and antisemitism go hand in hand.

MedInformaticsMD said...

Yes, and the cabal despises members of the tribe like me. That is, MOT's who both demonstrate a higher level of moral calling, such as via my work in the Yale Saudi project - and who subscribe to the "never again" philosophy and lived it via card-holding membership in the civilian rod & gun club of a major US military installation.

How terribly politically incorrect and oppressive of me.

Anonymous said...


Of the many valid issues you address, IMO the most important is: "That academia sets the tone through its influence on students suggests that one path to "healthcare renewal" is via "academic renewal."

You know my interest is in the diabetes/rDNA insulin issue, and your concluding statement points how we got to where we are: an entire generation of doctors have now entered the profession, convinced that rDNA insulin is the best, and turning a blind eye to history and/or need for comparative research. Why? Because THEIR teachers were unwilling to apply critical thinking, responsibility or morality.

Thanks for the article.


MedInformaticsMD said...

"That academia sets the tone through its influence on students suggests that one path to "healthcare renewal" is via "academic renewal."

I can make another point:

Luddite crazy professors trapped in the past, who think their hegemony over discourse is secure and that the internet technologies can't touch them, had better think - again - very hard.